Since he was embroiled in controversy during the release of The Birth of a Nation, filmmaker and actor Nate Parker has kept a relatively low profile. He recently resurfaced with a Spike Lee-supported film, American Skin, which debuted last year at the Venice Film Festival.
Now, David Oyelowo is opening up about why he is working with the director on an upcoming Sugar Ray Robinson biopic, despite the controversy.
“I have a pretty good discernment when it comes to good people,” said to Variety while promoting his directorial debut, The Water Man, which is screening at the virtual Toronto International Film Festival. “He is a good person beyond his fallibility, beyond the mistakes he made. And I believe in redemption. I believe in forgiveness and he is someone I have been around enough to know that in my opinion he is worthy of that.”
“He made mistakes in the middle of that whole controversy,” Oyelowo added. “He lacked a certain contrition that he now has as a human being.”
The Birth of a Nation, which had the biggest Sundance at the time with $17.5 million, ended up becoming a box office disappointment and soiled Oscar campaigns for the film as a whole, Parker himself and those of actresses Gabrielle Union and Aja Naomi King. The film went from being considered an Oscars sweep amid #OscarsSoWhite to folding completely.
Parker, whose scandal predated #MeToo and #TimesUp by nearly two years, faced a slew of controversy from a 17-year-old rape case while he was a student-athlete at Penn State. The rape allegation was made against Parker and his The Birth of a Nation co-writer, Jean McGianni Celestin. Their rape accuser died by suicide in 2012. Parker was acquitted and has maintained that he was "unjustly charged." In light of the controversy, Union wrote a powerful LA Times essay in response to the controversy titled "I cannot take Nate Parker rape allegations lightly."
“I believe that the man that is going to re-emerge when he does come back into the public consciousness is going to be someone who people are going to see his regret, see his compassion, see his maturation, see his growth, see his deserving of redemption," Oyelowo continued. “As it says in the Bible, all have sinned and fallen short — all of us. Therefore, let us have the compassion to recognize that and see where there are people who are truly contrite, truly desirous to be better going forward. What I would say about Nate is his handling of it when it happened was wrong and it lacked the compassion that needed to be seen.”
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